The Pragmatics of Branding: An Application of Dewey's Theory of Aesthetic Expression

Mary Jo Hatch

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article aims to explore the potential of Dewey's theory of aesthetic expression to expand knowledge about aesthetics in branding and better understand how brands work. The paper aims to mine the pragmatic theory of aesthetic expression as involving artistry, intention and imagination to reveal the role beauty plays alongside usefulness in defining and refining brand image and meaning. Design/methodology/approach: Dewey's dialectical method of holistically combining tensions such as beauty and usefulness is applied to brand theory and used to critique current brand management practices. Findings: The application of the theory of aesthetic expression emphasizes: understanding humans holistically in order to explain how beauty and expression create value and enrich lives; redefining brand ownership and use to accommodate the aesthetic ways people handle expression/expressiveness; and managing brands with appreciation of how beauty empowers them to attract users. Research limitations/implications: Seven dialectical tensions featured in Dewey's theory are identified and developed into holistic propositions for the future study of brands and branding: beauty/usefulness, act/object, inner/outer material, private/public, expression/statement, appreciation/control, symbolic/instrumental. Practical implications: The primary practical implication derived from application of the theory of aesthetic expression to brands and branding is that the most beautiful brands emerge from acts of co-creation that respect the artistry, intention and imagination of the brand's stakeholders. Originality/value: The article offers increased depth to the study of the expressive/emotional/aesthetic aspects of branding and offers an enriched aesthetic foundation for studying and practicing brand co-creation
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)885-899
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012

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